A non-glamourous look at the working class1 of the Naples crime organization. Documentary feel, and based in reality, this isn’t a film celebrating the life of crime.
The intertwining tales of a delivery boy, a tailor, a businessman and two cocky teenagers form the fabric of this gritty and lyrical examination of the influential Neapolitan mob known as the Camorra. Peering into a multitude of social strata within present-day Naples, director Matteo Garrone’s film — a hybrid of melodrama, crime and art-film genres — was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globe and a Best Documentary Independent Spirit Award. [Click to Netflix Gomorrah]
I liked it a lot. I might even pick up a copy of the book, despite not usually veering into best seller territory
From Roger Ebert’s review:
Roberto Saviano, who wrote the best seller that inspired the movie, went undercover, used informants, even (I learn from John Powers on NPR) worked as a waiter at their weddings. His book named names and explained exactly how the Camorra operates. Now he lives under 24-hour guard, although as the Roman poet Juvenal asked, “Who will guard the guards?”
Matteo Garrone, the director, films in the cheerless housing projects around Naples. “See Naples and die” seems to be the inheritance of children born here. We follow five strands of the many that Saviano unraveled in his book, unread by me. There is an illegal business in the disposal of poisonous waste. A fashion industry that knocks off designer lines and works from sweatshops. Drugs, of course. And then we meet teenagers who think they’re tough and dream of taking over locally from the Camorra. And kids who want to be gangsters when they grow up.
None of these characters ever refer to “The Godfather.” The teenagers know De Palma’s “Scarface” by heart. Living a life of luxury, surrounded by drugs and women, is perhaps a bargain they are willing to make even if it costs their lives. The problem is that only death is guaranteed. No one in this movie at any time enjoys any luxury. One of them, who delivers stipends to the families of dead or jailed Camorra members, doesn’t even have a car and uses a bicycle. The families moan that they can’t make ends meet, just like Social Security beneficiaries.
[Click to continue reading Gomorrah :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews]
Terry Gross and John Powers piece on NPR from February, 2009:
“Gomorrah” is based on a powerful book by an ambitious, young Neapolitan journalist named Roberto Saviano who saw his own father badly beaten because he called an ambulance for one of the mob’s victims. Fueled by righteous anger, Saviano did undercover reporting on the docks at an illegal textile factory, and he even waited tables at Camorra weddings. The result was a passionate, highly personal expose whose visibility annoyed the mob’s bosses, who are evidently not avuncular old fellows like Marlon Brando. These dons issued their version of a fatwa back in 2006, and three years later, Saviano, just 29 years old, is still living a life of bodyguards, armored cars and safe houses.
While Saviano’s book burns hot, he’s implicitly his story’s crusading hero. Garrone’s approach is cool, detached and almost anthropological. He knows that in a movie, Saviano’s feverish style would make “Gomorrah” exciting in the wrong way, turn it into operatic melodrama or pulp fiction.
Featuring no heroes, Garrone’s movie is pointedly anti-mythological, never more so than in its treatment of murder. “Gomorrah” is actually far less violent than “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas,” but it seems more brutal for Garrone offers no cinematically cool deaths and nobody softens the blow with catchy lines about killing not being personal, only business.
[Click to continue reading The Gritty Gangsters Of ‘Gomorrah’ : NPR]
Manohla Dargis concludes the NYT review:
I don’t want to overplay the film’s violence — it has a lower body count than the average Hollywood action flick — or underplay Mr. Garrone’s artistry. But part of what’s bracing about “Gomorrah,” and makes it feel different from so many American crime movies, is both its deadly serious take on violence and its global understanding of how far and wide the mob’s tentacles reach, from high fashion to the very dirt. There’s a heaviness to the bloodletting here, which has pressed down on this world and emptied its faces, halls and apartments of life. This is a world in which no one laughs, populated by men who are so busy killing one another that they don’t realize they’re as good as dead already.
Though Mr. Garrone doesn’t point a finger at the audience, he doesn’t let anyone off the hook. Toward the end of the film, the tailor accidentally catches sight of Scarlett Johansson on television as she smilingly promenades on a red carpet in one of the gowns he helped to make. As the announcers chatter about the gown (“an apparent simplicity, but in reality, very elaborate”), and the paparazzi scream for the star, the tailor smiles wistfully at his creation, which he and a roomful of women painstakingly hand-sewed in a gloomy factory for too many hours and too little money. It’s a cream-colored dress with a nice drape and satiny sheen, and while you can’t see the blood that went into every stitch, it’s there.
[Click to continue reading Movie Review – Gomorrah – Lesser-Known Mobsters, as Brutal as the Old Ones – NYTimes.com]
- for lack of a better term [↩]